It's always nice to see old friends. Sometimes, when you haven't seen each
other in a while, the conversations run long, as you play catch-up,
recounting everything that's gone on since the last time you met. Such was
the case when Empirix recently visited our offices. Teeing off the
conversation was (given the fact that these good folks recently underwent
a name change) the recent name change: Essentially, the company formerly
known as Hammer Technologies, a division of Teradyne, is now part of
newly-formed Empirix (www.empirix.com).
The Hammer name will live on, however, as the product line that anchors
the Communications Infrastructure Test Group (CITG).
Already an industry force due to their extensive line of testing tools
and resources, Empirix CITG came by to announce a slew of enhancements to
their existing suite of products and to introduce us to their newest
offering as well. As we advance into the next generation of convergence,
testing needs to move in that direction too. Carrier class testing for
voice quality, switching handoffs, and density (among other things) is
clearly in demand as products such as softswitches, gateways, and
next-generation switches are set to take more visible positions in the
network. Likewise there is a need to test enhanced services and
peripherals for functionality, voice quality, etc.
So, What Have You Been Up To?
To that end, Empirix is offering new features across many of its products.
In the Performance Test product category, the Hammer LoadBlaster 500 (a
high-volume call generator designed to provide the real-world traffic
needed to stress test modern telecommunications and computer telephony
systems, including complicated voice over network systems and
applications) will now sport an improved user interface, the TestBuilder
2.6. Among the interesting features to note here are its support of NFAS,
the ability to take an ISDN "D" channel and spread it out across
multiple channels, and a series of enhanced graphical reporting
capabilities. Speaking of enhanced, the TestBuilder's command line
interface (CLI) also sports new features such as the ability to run
stop/start tests with up to 20 parameters, access all summary statistics
shown on the summary call monitor for groups, servers, or channels, and
export those reports to a file of your choosing. Likewise, TestBuilder 2.6
features a new CallProfiler, which is essentially a test scheduler.
Also, Empirix is now offering a TestBuilder Plus option, which allows
for three new call profiles:
- Steady call rate (fixed call rate into system under test);
- Poisson distribution (defines call arrival rate by statistical
- Rolling blast (a set of channels can go off-hook simultaneously, and
repeat across assigned channel sets).
A completely new platform (albeit one that has grown out of an existing
product) is the SledgeHammer, a carrier class hardware platform for
serious load testing. Also featuring TestBuilder and TestBuilder Plus, the
SledgeHammer features three different configurations: 28 spans of T1, 28
spans of E1, or dual DS3s. (The original Hammer DS3 test solution that was
introduced a year ago is now a configuration within SledgeHammer.) In
essence, this turnkey solution is designed to enable real world testing
conditions to test such elements as tones, voice, fax with CAS, ISDN, and
SS7 v3.5. The inclusion of TestBuilder and TestBuilder Plus make this
system easy to use, too.
How's The New Baby Doing?
On the Control Products side of things, Empirix told us about some
developments with their MegaController, introduced just last year (Q3).
Where once Hammer's LoadStation could control up to five systems, the
MegaController gave users the ability to control over 40 servers, or over
20,000 ports! Enhancements include the ability to leverage the
aforementioned features of TestBuilder and TestBuilder Plus, including the
new CLI, graphical reports capabilities, grouping and new call profiles.
Not to be left behind, the Hammer IT server also got a bit of an
upgrade including the following:
- Hammer Configurator -- Simplifies configuration process, allows
remote configuration of Hammers, and centralizes troubleshooting and
systems information access.
- Support for NFAS with Backup D -- This feature maximizes the
available channels for voice allowing one D channel to control up to
479 B channels, an increase of 19 B channels. In addition, it provides
for a backup D channel if the primary fails.
- A new fax toolbar -- Allows users to customize fax sessions without
editing scripts, provides action objects for send and receive, and
enables different fax profiles for commonly used parameters.
On the Voice Quality testing front, Empirix also announced new features
to the Hammer VoIPTS, including voice quality testing at DS3 levels via
the Voice Quality Server, simple PSQM, and new fields in the Call Summary
Monitor to display voice files below the threshold. And, one of the main
features is the ability to integrate with the brand-new PacketSphere from
Really? Another On The Way?
PacketSphere is a network processor-based test platform architected to
support a number of applications, first of which is a network emulator.
The new product addresses the challenges of testing network devices in a
constantly (and rapidly) changing environment. Today's testing equipment
needs to work with both legacy and next-generation products, and
understanding the network parameters under which a particular device works
is crucial. Also, outfitting test labs with standalone, slowly evolving
test platforms is expensive. To this end, PacketSphere is software
upgradeable to allow for multiple applications on a single chassis, and
the product's roadmap calls for swappable physical interface modules to
expand operations as needed.
On the hardware side, PacketSphere is a 19-inch rack mountable chassis,
which fits two network processor modules, two physical interface modules,
one control module, a hard drive, and a power supply. User clients can be
Windows PCs with administration functions accessible through a standard
Web browser. The product is designed to operate a single application at up
to gigabit wire speeds or multiple simultaneous applications at 10/100
The product fills a need, namely the ability to simulate real world
conditions before a particular system reaches a beta customer's site, thus
improving the chances that the system will work as advertised, without
having to send in an army of engineers to tweak -- or worse, rewrite --
massive amounts of code. Bottom line? Developers can now find failures
sooner, avoiding the problems associated with flawed installations, thus
saving time and money.
Don't Let's Be Strangers
I guess it's obvious why we haven't seen our friends at Empirix for the
last little while -- they've been BUSY! And there are some clear signs
that they will continue to be busy in the months ahead. Which means of
course that they'll be stopping by to see us real soon, and I'm sure we'll
have lots to talk about. That's the thing with old friends: even though
you don't see each other on a regular basis, when you do finally catch up,
there's always something new and exciting to hammer out.
Everyone dreads the hacker, and for good reason. Hackers, like all
fringe elements, work outside a system. Their lives are often dedicated to
thinking outside the box, and for those with that worldview, loopholes are
easy to find. They don't need to design systems, they only need to figure
out how to get into them in order to do their dirty work; dirty work that
can cost e-businesses millions upon millions in lost dollars. All the hard
work you have put in to develop your own testament to the power of
capitalism can be shot down in a matter of hours. This should keep you up
at night, but if you are smart, you already have someone up at night doing
the worrying for you.
Arbor Networks is a managed networks service that grew out of concerns
about the liability associated with hacker flood attacks on high
visibility sites. Just over a year ago, many major e-business sites were
shut down and millions of dollars lost when such attacks occurred. If
systems such as Arbor's would have been in place, such attacks would have
had limited potential to do harm.
Arbor uses correlation and analysis techniques to examine the network
and search for anomalies in the system. Arbor's Web-based solution is
leveraged on the existing network, and works by way of a distributed
architecture that runs throughout the network. By monitoring what type and
rate of traffic is going through the network, anomalies can be identified
and tracked before they take over the system. Furthermore, when those
anomalies are fingerprinted (identified) the rest of the network is not
only alerted to the specific problem, but the origins of the problem can
With managed network service technologies such as Arbor's on your
network, you can once again devote your dreams to billion-dollar fantasies
and sunny days at the beach. www.arbornetworks.com
To The March 2001 Table Of Contents ]